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Monday Q&A | Free Samples, CSAs and Weddings

I’ve known about your site since 2008 but have never asked a question before. I was wondering what your views are on free samples. There are tons of websites that gather samples together and update them daily. I just browsed today and found about ten samples that will be coming in the mail. Do you use these, and do you have a favorite?


I’m not actually a free sample nut, mostly because I take issue with the amount of packaging these samples use. I wrote more about that in a blog post about free samples.

I do like to sign up for full-size freebies, though, and my favorite resource for that is MoneySavingMom.

Have you considered buying a share in a CSA?

-lots and lots of people

A Hungry Harvest box filled with produce.

Yep, I have! I think CSAs are a fabulous idea. But all the CSAs in my area are booked, and so my only option was to be put on a waiting list.


I’m making more of an effort to visit the local farmer’s markets and produce stands, though, so we’re still managing to eat some local produce even without a CSA.

I JUST got engaged (yay!) and the first thought that came to mind was: How do I plan a “frugal” wedding… but still manage to have some of the traditional bells and whistles?

I realized that your wedding was one of the things I don’t know about you… would you care to share some of the minor details about it? Was frugality a major component? Did you get married at City Hall and do a small, intimate party? Or was it more traditional with a church and a more lavish celebration?


First, congrats!! Second, I’m not sure that my wedding was a classic frugal wedding, but it wasn’t super expensive either. I think the total bill for everything (food, my dress, invitations, etc) was $5000.

(my mother can feel free to pipe up and correct me if I’m wrong on that!)

We did have a church wedding, and we had a fairly large number of guests (I can’t remember exactly how many, though.). However, we had an evening wedding (at 7:00 pm), and so afterwards, we just had hors d’ouevres and then cake and ice cream. This was less stressful and less expensive than having a sit-down dinner. We also saved money by having the reception in the church building. Plus, a lot of our church family pitched in to help by preparing food, serving food, and decorating the church.

Hmmm…what else did we do to save money? We printed our own invitations on purchased cardstock. My dress came from David’s Bridal, and cost $500, and my wedding shoes were from Payless(!). We rented a tux and shoes for Mr. FG instead of buying them. The night of our wedding, we stayed in a nearby Bed and Breakfast, and then we headed up to Cape Cod, where my parents had given us a week’s stay as our wedding present.

I didn’t actually have to pay for my wedding expenses, so keeping things simple didn’t save me any money personally. Really, though, part of the reason we kept things simple is that I didn’t care very much about all the wedding details. Quite honestly, Mr. FG and I just wanted to get married and start our new lives together, and all the wedding trappings weren’t that important to us. Even our honeymoon location didn’t much matter to us…we were just so happy to be married and to be all by ourselves, I think we’d have had a fabulous time no matter where we went.

Considering that we have 3 female offspring, I’ll probably be full of more practical frugal wedding advice 15-20 years from now, but for the moment, my best advice is to remember that the main point of a wedding is to marry two people…it’s not about impressing other people, or throwing the party of the year. If you have the resources and you want to throw a fabulous party, that’s all well and good, but a small wedding can accomplish the goal of marrying two people just as well as a large wedding can.

And lastly, I’d add that what matters most is not the amount of effort you put into your wedding, but the amount of effort you put into your marriage. It seems like a lot of people get those two things flip-flopped. 😉

P.S.-I’d also put in a vote for hiring a good photographer. If I could go back, that’s probably the only thing I’d change about my wedding. I wasn’t into photography back then, so I didn’t put a lot of effort into finding a good, creative photographer. Ah well…one of these days, I will fork over the cash to have a nice photo session done for Mr. FG and me to make up for it!


I’m positive that you, dear readers, have lots of fabulous frugal wedding advice to add to mine, so please share in the comments!

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Monday 26th of November 2012

Two of my daughters are married, one in 2009 and the latest just a month ago. They were lovely weddings and not extravagant. I did all the flowers for both weddings, in silks, because this way you can spend and create over time! I could not have been more happy with the results.

Daughter # 1 got her dress at David's, for--unbelievably- $99!! It was her dream dress, and she looked so perfect....the alterations were twice that, but we still came in under $350 for the whole shebang. One thing that helped in the expenses for both weddings was that we had a year to plan and save. I did not charge one cent for either wedding, it was all cash. Daughter #2 lives in Los Angeles and the wedding was here in Houston. Aside from the reception, travel was their biggest expense. BUT the couple paid for that themselves, as well as the reception. (buffet dinner). We went halfsies on the cakes, the photographer, the materials for the pew markers ( framed black and white candid pictures of the bride and groom, hung from black ribbon at the end of the pews), and the materials for the bridesmaids bouquets, which I made.Also the favors, mini real pumpkins which I covered with black lace pulled tight so the pumpkin showed through,( it was three days before Halloween) and a printed tag attached to the stem that said Trick or Treat from_____( their names).I made a 100 of those little suckers! These were placed at each place setting and looked so cute on the ten round tables. My youngest daughter is a hairstylist and did hair and makeup( despite being maid of honor- lol) and we paid for the DJ. I made payments over seven months time, it wasn't too painful!! My daughter also bought her own dress. Now at her age (30). Well established job, etc. things are different than they were for my younger daughter who was a college student. We paid for virtually that whole wedding. Again, it wasn't extravagant and I had a great headstart on saving!


Wednesday 11th of August 2010

Oh my goodness, I never commented on this one, and I definitely should have. My awesome bodyguard hubby and I got married on our 5 year anniversary. It was a Friday, and we had the retired sheriff marry us (he wore a baseball hat! yay!) in the park by the courthouse. It was a GORGEOUS spring day - we totally lucked out on that. Ways we kept it cheap: - He wore clothes he already owned. - I didn't buy a "wedding dress" - I bought a beautiful blue wrap top I'd been wanting for a while and a new long black skirt. I already had shoes (mohops, which I must recommend, as they are vegan and handmade in Chicago). - We invited immediate family only. For me, this was parents/siblings/nieces; for him, this was parents and one grandfather. - We did not tell anybody else, so no invitations were needed. - We had a small lunch at a restaurant afterwards; we just took a private room. No dj, music, or dancing. My parents paid for this. - My sister works at a fancy hotel, and the baker there was kind enough to make our wedding cake, which we were going to do without because they're expensive. - No booze. (Everybody was driving afterwards.) - Location was the town we met, which was close enough that almost everybody could just drive in for the day. - We did buy a plane ticket for my brother so he could come. - We did get a good photographer (college friend of ours); she was not cheap, but because we didn't do the whole 8 hours of wedding mess, it was more like an engagement photo session cost. His parents paid for this. - I do not have an engagement ring. This was my choice. Our wedding rings are simple titanium inlaid with wood. - Everybody brought daffodils and bubbles - this made for a really fun after ceremony/picture taking time.

I think our totel cost was well under $5000, including everything anybody paid for. And it was a GREAT day - very low stress, and very fun. :-D I'm grinning thinking about it now.


Tuesday 22nd of June 2010

My husband and I were married this past February in Toulouse, France. Since I'm American and he's French there were different expectations but a lot of flexibility helped everything fall into place. Due to some problems with French bureaucracy, we planned the whole affair in 3 weeks! Given such short notice, we didn't have time to send invitations and informed everyone by phone/email. The only time slot left at City Hall that weekend was for 10:30 Saturday morning, so we took it. There was no fee to be married there and it's a beautiful building inside and out. I found an off-white dress and blazer combo for about $300 -both can we worn again. My husband bought a new suit for the occasion but wore a tie he already had. We found my engagement ring at a Pawn Shop in the US -it's from the 1920s and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. We did end up paying full retail price for our wedding bands, though we could've found something cheaper had we had more time to look into it. My husband's grandmother very kindly offered to pay for the flowers (2 centerpieces and one bouquet). My sister took some wonderful pictures, as did my inlaws and other friends. After the ceremony we had coffee at a local café before going to lunch. I think my husband's parents paid for lunch and my parents paid for dinner later that day -something egalitarian like that. Good food is essential at any French wedding, even a last minute one! Originally we'd planned on getting married in July, but the fact that we moved the date up to February actually allowed our American guests to find cheaper plane tickets, even if a strike almost prevented them from getting here. My parents and sister were able to come, and at the end of the day it's friends and family that count. I may forget some of the details as the years go by, but I'll never forget that they were with me on that day. For the honeymoon, we spent 4 nights in the Pyrenees in a little rental studio we found online for 250 dollars. We did some cross country skiing and soaking in the local hot springs. Definitely not exotic, but relaxing and peaceful just the same. Neither my husband nor I enjoy being the center of attention, so a small, simple, fun weekend with family and a few close friends was perfect for us. Advice? Do what works for you, your fiance and your families. Stress and anxiety about expenses should be saved for "real" problems, not party planning. However you decide to celebrate, enjoy!


Thursday 17th of June 2010

My wedding didn't cost much, but in my area, a fancy wedding with a sit-down fancy dinner is almost unheard of. Mine was pretty typical. I did have a fancier dress ($700), but I had a photographer who was also a friend take the photos. He gave me all the photos he took, untouched, and I went through the thousands (literally) of shots and worked them myself. We had sandwiches from a local sandwich shop, shrimp plates from Costco, pinwheel sandwiches made ahead and several other cold appetizers we could just take out of the refrigerator and set out quickly before the guests got their after the wedding. My wedding was in our church and the reception was in the lodge at the local ski area. Wedding was at 11, so it was a lunch wedding. For flowers, we picked wild flowers for the reception, and I used our bouquets to decorate the cake table. For church flowers, I bought a large flower arrangement for the altar, then relied on the prettiness of the church for the rest of the atmosphere. It was all pretty laid-back, and I had fun.


Wednesday 16th of June 2010

My wedding cost $1000. It was only 40 guests (our nearest and dearest), but it was at a very nice entertainment/dance complex so the only cost for the reception was food. I rented my wedding gown, hubby's tux was free with our dads' rentals, cake and flowers were from the local grocery store (beautiful!) Our friend photographed and my brother taped as their gifts.

It almost sounds cheesy writing it, but it was really nice. Everyone enjoyed themselves. :)

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